MoPete steps it up

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Swingman Morris Peterson, who has started in place of departed Vince Carter, has elevated his game to another level.

Averaging 8.9 points per game this season, Peterson's numbers have progressively gone up as a starter, beginning with 10 in L.A. against the Lakers on Dec.28, 12 against Golden State on Dec.29 and 21 against Orlando on Monday at the Air Canada Centre.

Head coach Sam Mitchell is enthusiastic about Peterson's play of late, but isn't about to crack the champagne yet.

"He's been better everyday, but he's got a long way to go, and he understands that," Mitchell said. "We have to get Mo to play more consistently. If he can bring the effort and concentration that he did (Monday) night, then he'll be okay." Peterson, 27, has talked about taking on more of a leadership role this season and Mitchell certainly welcomes that.

"(But) you lead by example," the coach said. "So if he plays hard, and plays smart, that will come."

Peterson looks at the last three games as building blocks towards becoming a top starter in the NBA.

"I've been working on my shooting, watching a lot of film and doing extra things in order to make sure I'm ready to play," he said. "This is the opportunity I've been waiting for for a long time, and I'll continue to work hard to show people what I can do."

FIERY COACH

Mitchell has become more and more fiesty with the media as the season has progressed. Yesterday, he took exception, albeit somewhat jokingly, with a question as to why other teams leave rookie Matt Bonner open late in games.

"Have you ever considered the fact that it could be the plays that were called that get him unattended?" Mitchell asked. "Do you think other NBA coaches are going to let that guy shoot wide open shots? That they're purposely trying to leave him open? Maybe I do know what I'm doing a little bit."


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